s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: The letter between M and O

Friday, December 02, 2005

The letter between M and O

Several weeks ago Master Fob wrote a blog entry about how the letter between M and O on his keyboard was stuck. He then proceeded to write an entire blog entry sans N. Which confused me to no end, because the letter between M and O on a QWERTY keyboard is K. (Take a second and look.) And then I realized that he meant “the letter between M and O [in the alphabet] was stuck on his keyboard.”

I point this out not to criticize Master Fob’s writing style (far be it from me), nor to share an amusing piece of syntactic (or semantic) ambiguity, but as a cognitive illustration. While some may think that I spend my free time thinking of clever double meanings and secondary interpretations for things, you would be quite mistaken. This is just how my brain normally works.

It is not uncommon for someone to make a statement, and have my mind go wandering off in what I think is the logical direction, only to discover that everyone else has quietly made a different interpretation, without perceiving any ambiguity at all.

This makes it very hard to follow directions. Someone will say “turn left” and I think “that could mean anything!” so I try to narrow it down to the most likely possibilities or ask for clarification. (To illustrate: “turn left” could mean “at the next light,” “at the next intersection,” or “at the next house.”)

However, this also means that I give very clear directions, because I give directions that even I could follow.

I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse. My close friends and family don’t mind, at least, when I ask for clarification about something they’ve said, or give them more precise options, or maybe just take a few extra seconds to decide which interpretation of what they’ve said is more plausible. And I did think that “the letter between M and O” was a rather awkward way of describing “K,” but my life is full of such confusion, so I have learned not to question it.

8 Comments:

At December 02, 2005 4:55 AM, Blogger Thirdmango said...

I thought of N first but then thought, No, it's K, and then I was mistaken again.

 
At December 02, 2005 8:31 AM, Blogger Peter said...

I immediately looked to my keyboard to see which letter it was. The alphabetical order didn't even occur to me. When you provide a reference point such as a keyboard and then refer to things in a different order, it confuses me. So you're not alone.

 
At December 02, 2005 9:36 AM, Blogger Katya said...

Hmm. Well, I feel better knowing I'm not alone. Do you also have trouble following directions, thirdmango?

To be fair, Peter, what he originally said was "The letter between M and O: There's a letter on my keyboard that doesn't work lately. . . . " So the connection wasn't quite so clear as I've made it out to be in my post.

 
At December 02, 2005 2:20 PM, Blogger bawb said...

I had the same immediate thought. Great header image, btw; I like that picture even more in context.

 
At December 02, 2005 3:25 PM, Blogger Master Fob said...

Technically, I said, "The Letter Betwee M ad O:" yadda yadda yadda. I think it's really funny that you made that connection because I didn't and usually that's how my brain works--jumping immediately to the least likely possible interpretation. But I suppose I had the advantage of knowing before I started that I was talking about N. (Which works great now, by the way, since my brother gave us a new keyboard.)

 
At December 02, 2005 6:28 PM, Blogger JB said...

I didn't misunderstand Master Fob, but I did used to always understanding things differently than everyone else in Sunday School when I was little.

 
At December 03, 2005 12:58 AM, Blogger Tolkien Boy said...

I love the direction admission. If someone doesn't give me landmarks, I have a tendency to reinvent the landscape to fit my own idea of what the driving instructions should be like.

 
At December 05, 2005 11:02 AM, Blogger Th. said...

.

What I hate is when I'm holding a screwdriver and someone says "Turn it left."

Left?!

Which way is left!

There is no left!

(nevermind that it still takes me twenty seconds to decide which hand is my left hand and which is my right. in normal circumstances, I find "go that way" to be a much elss ambiguous direction)

 

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